DEARBORN, MI – Ford has become a leader in offering driver-assist technology in nearly every vehicle it offers, but the auto maker still has work to do in getting word to consumers.

A recent survey by research firm Penn Schoen Berland shows consumers want technologies such as active-park assist and lane-departure warning, but surprisingly few know such systems exist.

In the survey, which polled 2,506 U.S. drivers May 7-14, 58% of respondents said they were interested in Ford’s MyKey system, which allows parents of teenage drivers to provide more seatbelt reminders and mute the radio. However, only 33% were aware it was offered.

Similarly, another MyKey feature that allows parents to limit the top speed of the car interested 50% of respondents, but only 24% knew of it.

The same held true for a feature that blocks text messages and incoming calls, with 50% of consumers saying they wanted the feature, but only 19% aware Ford offered it.

Amy Marentic, Ford group marketing manager, says the auto maker must improve the way it presents driver-assist technologies to the buying public.

“It’s all about education; we need to communicate better,” she tells WardsAuto at a media event here. “When you have a suite of 25 technologies it’s hard to pick one or two, because when you’re doing an ad or a commercial you typically have an opportunity to get (only) one or two ideas through.”

Marentic says Ford is taking steps to better market its driver-assist technologies, including spending more time with dealers and sales consultants to make sure they explain to consumers how the systems work.

The technologies also will be featured more prominently in advertising, she says, noting a TV commercial for the new ’13 Escape highlights the cross/utility vehicle’s hands-free liftgate, which opens and closes via a kicking motion under the rear bumper.

Although Ford has work to do marketing its technologies, the study indicates consumers are willing to pay for driver-assist systems.

According to the survey, U.S. drivers acknowledge engaging in other activities while behind the wheel, with 76% eating or drinking while driving; 53% talking on a handheld cell phone; 25% searching for contacts on their phone; 55% speeding; and 37% driving while too tired.

Additionally, 57% of respondents report having or nearly having an accident because of a blind spot and 48% having or coming close to having an accident when backing out of a parking spot because of obstructed view.

Some 38% say they avoid parallel parking because they fear or dislike the process and 46% have fallen asleep at the wheel or know someone who has.

Amazingly, the survey shows 88% of respondents consider themselves a safe driver.

“Most people acknowledge doing (other) things while driving,” Marentic says. “And they want technologies that help them be more aware of their surroundings. Our solution is to offer a complete lineup and do it in a way that’s affordable.”

Marentic cites the new ’13 Fusion midsize sedan launching this fall. It comes available with a bevy of driver-assist technologies, including a blind-spot information system; adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with brake support; lane-keeping system with driver alert; active-park assist; rear-view camera system; and the Sync infotainment system.

Some of the features are offered as part of a technology package, while others are available as stand-alone options.

Marentic says the 24,000 early ’13 Fusion orders indicate consumers are interested in driver-assist systems.

“In the early weeks of taking orders for the new Fusion, customer interest in these driver-assist features is translating into strong demand,” she says. “More than 14% of the orders so far include the driver-assist package (which includes blind-spot and lane-keeping systems, auto high-beams and rain-sensing wipers), exceeding our expectations.”

bpope@wardsauto.com